She is born and raised in the foothills of the Himalayas in Kashmir, India, is the executive director of American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality (WISE), let us introduce you to Daisy Khan!
Khan was raised in a Muslim household and attended a Christian missionary school. In this diverse environment of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, she learned from an early age what harmony, tolerance and unity was all about. This experience combined with the powerful influence of her grandfather, who encouraged his children and grandchildren to pursue the best education, was probably the force behind all of her great work.
With the words of her grandfather in the back of her mind she moved to America at the age of 16 to pursue an education in art and design. Her first days weren’t really a walk in the park as she was an exception in her almost entirely Jewish school. She now looks back at that time and thinks that’s where her first activism started. She realized she was a spokesperson for Islam at that time. This is a role she now inhabits on a far larger scale. Afterwards she earned a degree from the New York School of Interior Design. In this time she struggled with the portrait of the Islam seeing both her peaceful childhood memories and the violent struggles portrayed by the media.
Daisy Khan’s Carreer
In the beginning of her career, Daisy’s biggest jobs always involved religious architecture. This was by coincidence, but through her work she recognized the need for immigrants to recreate their homelands in America.
After a few jobs, she volunteered with her husband in community development. This collaboration established the non-profit group ASMA in 1997. Through this organization, Khan dedicated herself to strengthening an expression of Islam based on cultural and religious harmony through interfaith collaboration, cultivating the next generation of leaders, promoting women’s rights and building bridges between Muslims and the general public through culture and arts. Like so she organized the groundbreaking interfaith theatrical productions “Same Difference” and “Corba Bread Fest” which brought together dozens of Christians, Jewish and Muslim leaders.
We need to project a different message of Islam, one of tolerance, love and the kind of commonalities we have with different faith communities.”
She launched two programs especially focused on the advancement of Muslim women and the empowerment of youth. First of she founded Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT) in 2004 to cultivate and empower young Muslim leaders globally. This is still the largest network of young Muslim leaders around the world. After that she created WISE in 2006 to promote women’s rights and enable women to make dignified choices and participate in creating flourishing societies.
In 2008 WISE organized the first global Muslim women’s Shura Counsil to discuss about religious grounded opinions on controversial topics, especially directing Muslim women. This was after Khan was disturbed by the mistreatments like stoning, honor killings and forced marriages which women had/have to endure around the world. It was a panel full of historians, political scientists, sociologists,… They made statements on domestic abuse, violent extremism, female genital cutting and adoption. These statements were even used to train Imams in Afghanistan to learn them more about women’s rights and to combat violent extremism. In 2009 she founded her website on which she describes the struggles women go through every day.
In an interview with Fox News she sums up what I think, a lot of people are thinking; “We Muslims are really fed up of having to be defined by the actions of the extremists, we are law-abiding citizens. We are faithful people. We are very good Americans. And we need to project a different message of Islam, one of tolerance, love and the kind of commonalities we have with different faith communities.”
At the moment she and her husband are trying to build Park51, a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero.